Skip to Content
mobile navigation icon
David M. Cobb

Flat Garden

The Flat Garden (hira-niwa) is an example of how gardens in Japan have continued to develop the dry landscape style of the karesansui garden over time. In a garden such as this one, the designer worked to balance the relationship between the flat planes (the ground) and the volume of stones and clipped shrubbery and trees to create a sense of depth of space. The garden is meant to be seen from a single viewpoint either from within the Pavilion or from the veranda. The whole is framed by the sliding shoji doors if viewed from inside or by the veranda itself if viewed from outside. This framed view can be appreciated in much the same way we would appreciate a landscape painting—perhaps a view of a shoreline across the water of the raked gravel plane. Mountains and hills are depicted in the rounded shapes of the azalea shrubs. The Flat Garden also provides a distinctively seasonal beauty in all four seasons. The Japanese laceleaf maple is more than a century old and can be said to represent autumn, while the weeping cherry signifies the spring. Winter is represented by the black pines and summer by the imaginary cool “water” of the raked gravel surrounding the Circle and Gourd Islands, which symbolize enlightenment and happiness.